The technology, people. It's an amazing thing.
A few months back - let's say six or so - I got a message from my past in the form of a MySpace email from my former junior and high school classmate, Josh. He'd apparently been breezing through the alumni listing and saw my page, then also happened to notice that I was doing artist booking. In an intriguing coincidence, Josh was now part of an old-time country duo, The Get Up Johns (not what I'd have predicted when he was rocking out to Christian rap after Physics lab, but still somewhat fitting). And, unlike most of the musicians who contact me through MySpace, they were really, really good. You have no idea what a relief it is to have a friend say, "Hey, would you mind listening to this?" and having it actually be something worth listening to. And that's coming from someone who, quite frankly, does not have the world's keenest aural sense (I'm really just here to pimp the songwriters, my acoustically enhanced literary brethren and sistren).
So, over the next few months, we kept in touch and managed to forge together a 5-date tour of the southeast, an area of the U.S. that these country die-hards had not yet explored (at least as a touring act - Josh's partner Jake is a native of Morgantown, WV). As you might expect, it was quite possibly my easiest booking run ever. An old-time country duo? In the South? Almost embarrassingly easy. After making sure they had a good anchor show in Memphis, I got them shows in Opelika, AL; Knoxville, TN; Atlanta and Savannah, GA. Through their own MySpace hustling, they also got a Nashville show with Kathy Louvin, daughter of one of their idols, Ira Louvin.
And then, I'm embarrassed to admit, I sort of forgot all about it. I got them all their show specs and tried to help their publicist get the press info she needed, but then it sort of dropped off my radar. Until I got an email from Josh, sent on Tuesday morning, saying that they were going to drive in from Chicago that night and could I suggest someplace for them to park their mobile lodgings (which I assumed to be a van, but which turned out to be a Jetta wagon with a homespun plywood bunk across the way-back). Since I didn't get that email until 10pm Tuesday night, they were left to their own midwestern devices, which led them to the Elvis Presley RV park, within spitting distance of Graceland. (Listen as the Memphis locals release a sigh of pity/gasp of fear as they picture two country singers in a VW station wagon, sleeping innocently behind a used car lot on EP Blvd.) Thankfully, they survived the night and were up and at 'em on Wednesday in time for their live appearance on Bashful Bob's "Sho' Nuff Country" show on WEVL.
And now, a brief moment to express how much I love Bashful Bob. Oh, how I love him.
Ahem. Anyway, the on-air went fabulously (I listened to it online, another modern wonder) and they gamely followed my instructions to lunch at Gus's Fried Chicken. After a mandatory tour of Sun Studio, they headed to the P&H to check out the bar and enjoy their free wi-fi. When I and the rest of the crowd started arriving around 7:45, the boys were showered, shaved and dressed in their customary suits. It soon became clear that this wasn't going to be a typical night at the P&H, not just because the musicians weren't wearing faded Big Star t-shirts but because the median age was about 62. Turns out, there was a large contingent from Arkansas sitting right up next to the stage who had caught the boys on Midwest Country, a Minnesota-produced Opry-style show that airs on this obscure satellite channel called RFD. Apparently Bashful Bob had seen that appearance as well, and it was part of the reason he'd come all the way up from Tupelo to have the guys on his show. Bob and his Mississippi crew were anchoring another table near the bar.
Between those two groups, the Get Up Johns had a faithful following all night long, but they also grabbed the attention of the hipsters slouching in the booths. The show was fantastic, with Josh and Jake proving that the seamless harmonies and adroit picking heard on their CD is not some sort of production trick. These boys can really play. Even Stacey and RJA, not generally considered the biggest country fans in Memphis, had to admit that they sounded really good. It was a great evening, and it was in large part due to the wonders of MySpace, streaming radio, and Dish TV. And a whole bunch of songs written when my grandparents were in elementary school.